If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.
Blood, Violence and Babes
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Holiday Gift Guide: 2012 Edition - The Best Blu-Ray and DVD Collectibles and Gifts
Posted Dec 11, 2012 by John Allman
Updated Dec 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM
It’s that time again, kids.
The holidays are upon us, and if the Mayans are wrong, you better have something wrapped pretty and ready or else you might find yourself looking like a real Scrooge come Dec. 25.
Here then are some suggestions to satisfy every possible taste on your shopping list—from the perpetual kid who still idolizes the cartoons or fantasy shows of their youth to the studious observer who wants to always know more about history and beyond, from the lovers of classic television to cinephiles who obsess and catalog their favorite films.
This isn’t an exhaustive list - we only have so much time here at BVB: Blood, Violence and Babes to check out the coolest of the cool - but it’s a fine jumping off point for that last minute, frantic flurry of a shopping spree to find the perfect something for the people you love and hold dear.
Boxed Sets, Collectibles and Gifts:
The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection
Studio: Time Life
Specs: 22 discs featuring 50 hand-picked episodes by Burnett, plus more than 20 hours of Bonus Features, including two rarely-seen interviews with the late Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, multipole featurettes and more; a commemorative 20-page Memory Book and collectible packaging that resembles the the curtain from the show’s opening.
Summary: Debuting in 1967 and on the air until 1978, The Carol Burnett Show was a trail-blazing sketch comedy/variety hour notable not only for its incredible writing, but also because it featured a woman at its helm. Burnett broke the mold set by a string of successful, older, white men who had commanded TV for years. And she brought along with her one of the best supporting casts to ever grace the small screen, including Korman and Conway and Vicki Lawrence. The show won 25 Emmys and five Golden Globes during its 11-year run, and produced some of the most memorable television moments of the 1970s.
There probably aren’t many people younger than their mid-30s today who even remember Burnett, but for those of us who grew up in the ‘70s, few could ever forget such classic skits as Burnett, portraying Scarlett O’Hara, wrapping herself in curtains and blithely strolling down the stairs to meet Rhett Butler, played by Korman.
All in the Family: The Complete Series
Studio: Shout! Factory
Specs: 28 discs, 208 episodes, 6,300 minutes. Special features include a new interview with Norman Lear, two documentaries, two versions of the pilot episode, “Justice for All” and “Those Were the Days,” and pilot episodes for “Archie Bunker’s Place” and “Gloria.”
Summary: We’ve all known an Archie Bunker in our lives.
The family member who says the worst thing possible at the worst possible time.
Me, I have known a couple. I guess that makes me Meathead.
The classic American sitcom that basically defined cutting edge before the suits at the FX Network were even old enough to count Nielsen ratings has been packaged together in one giant boxed set. It’s an impressive time capsule of television that speaks volumes to how far we’ve come, both as a people and a TV viewing public, and also how far we’ve yet to grow.
The underlying tension in “All in the Family” was never as vitriolic as much of what passes for family hour today. The cringe-worthy moments in retrospect aren’t nearly as uncomfortable today, despite coming from a genuine place expressed by a man, Norman Lear, who had looked around his world and wanted to shine a light on the hate that was bubbling just beneath the surface.
Today’s version of “All in the Family” would push for more blue moments and headline-grabbing soundbites. It would be gauged by a sound meter instead of social analysis. Loud is the new crude. We watch it everyday on “The Real This of There,” average, ordinary families completely falling apart in the camera eye, airing their secrets for ratings and selling their souls for fame.
Archie Bunker, by comparison, looks tame.
Desperate Housewives: The Complete Collection
Specs: 46 discs, 7,734 minutes
Summary: Fans of “Lost” had the mystery of the Island and Jacob and the Hatch. Weekly visitors to Wisteria Lane had Mary Alice Young.
Debuting in 2004, “Desperate Housewives,” along with “Lost,” ushered in the resurgence of serial TV as a thoroughly engrossing, all-consuming, interactive detective experience.
Fans not only tuned in every week to wait for new clues to dissect, they took to the Internet to passionately debate and defend and decry each new plot development.
The show was a cultural zeitgeist, a smarter, soapier, sexier version of past nighttime pulp like “Melrose Place” and “Dallas,” that was as comfortable with murder as it was torrid sex. It was escapism for women who felt trapped by suburban doldrums, who fantasized about bedding the lawn boy or poisoning the catty neighbor next door who seemed to have everything she wanted and flaunted it.
Not every season was as riveting as the first, and as each year stretched on, the residents of Wisteria Lane struggled to maintain, and regain, relevance. Behind-the-scenes turmoil often outshone the on-screen antics, particularly when founding Housewife Nicollette Sheridan was unceremoniously shown the door, only to take legal action amid tawdry allegations of mistreatment.
Promotional photoshoots garnered attention for the alleged diva demands of the cast.
But the show was allowed that rare opportunity, much like “Lost,” to go out on its own terms.
Entourage: The Complete Series
Specs: 18 Discs, 2,575 minutes
Summary: For most of its eight-season run on HBO, “Entourage” was Bro-ppointment TV, a show about guys being guys, about lifelong friendships and the perils of celebrity and fame.
It’s a show known as much for making Aquaman relevant as for introducing into the lexicon the memorable catchphrase, “Hug it out.” It’s the show that finally provided Jeremy Piven a platform to prove his comedic acting chops as Hollywood agent Ari Gold, even as his personal life became tabloid fodder.
If you didn’t watch “Entourage,” you probably knew someone who did, and Monday mornings in the break room often included snippets of dialogue being recounted.
Friends: The Complete Series
Studio: Warner Bros.
Specs: 21 discs, 236 episodes, more than 110 hours of content (episodes plus special features)
Summary: “Friends” was, appropriately, appointment TV and usually every Thursday night you could be found sitting with your own friends, watching the show. For me, during my “Friends” watching peak, that meant being at Linda’s apartment in Pensacola, usually with three or four other colleagues, some good take-out and cocktails.
“Friends” had an undeniable quality that managed to be both exactly like real life, and yet somehow like a better life that you only wished you had. You could relate to the characters and the situations. You envied the fabulous apartments that no average twenty-something could possibly afford in New York City. You became invested in their romantic entanglements. You rooted for Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica and secretly wished Phoebe and Joey would just get drunk and hook up, regardless of how disastrous that would likely be.
“Friends” was, and is, comfort TV. But it’s also good TV. It reminds you of that time in that place with that group when you knew the memories you were making would last a lifetime.
Specs: 10 discs, 8 films including “Reservoir Dogs,” “True Romance,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” “Death Proof” and “Inglorious Basterds,” plus two bonus discs of special features.
Summary: Every great filmmaker has a dog on his or her resume. Spielberg has “Always.” Scorsese has “Bringing Out the Dead.” Kubrick had “Eyes Wide Shut,” which I personally don’t consider a bad film because of its handful of truly iconic moments (“Fidelio.”)
I dare you to name a bad Quentin Tarantino film. The director himself offered “Death Proof” recently during an interview, but even that Grindhouse experiment wasn’t a bad movie. It was enjoyable and rich with all the hallmarks that make Tarantino one of the true greats.
Even the two films he wrote, but didn’t direct, “True Romance” and “Natural Born Killers,” which isn’t included here, are classics of the genre, bursting with vivid characters and moments of surreal violence that no one else could have conceived.
“Tarantino XX” is a masterful collection in that even the bonus features, including the fantastic documentary “20 Years in Filmmaking,” offer something unexpected and fresh. The packaging is hands down the best of the year with original artwork designed by Mondo, the Austin-based purveyors of pop culture couture.
Harold & Kumar: Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Studio: Warner Bros.
Specs: 3 discs, 285 minutes, 3 films, including “Harold & Kumar go to White Castle,” “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.”
Summary: Stoner movies often are very hit or miss. By their very nature, and intended audience, they can seem hysterical to individuals under the influence and completely flat to everyone else. The “Harold & Kumar” franchise is rare in the sense that most of the jokes play equally well, regardless of chemical contribution. The first two films are sporadically funny, but the third movie, “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,” is an absolute riot of mistaken identities and ridiculous situations.
And, of course, there’s NPH, lending his comedic talents to each movie, bringing a surreal blast of subversive wit at just the right time.
Kudos to Warner Bros. for the genius packaging, a giant zippo lighter, that contains the discs plus collectible White Castle air fresheners and coasters.
Lawrence of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
Specs: Three discs, 227 minutes, including a fully-restored version of the film, a Special Features disc and a soundtrack CD
Summary: The 1962, Oscar-winning Best Film arrives in a splendid 50th anniversary boxed set complete with a gorgeous, full-color hardback coffee table book, a numbered and mounted 70mm-film cell and collectible packaging. Widely regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made, this is the film that defined Hollywood epic.
Specs: 23 discs, 22 films, including nine that have never been released on Blu-Ray, plus a disc of an hour’s worth of new Bonus Features, 2,748 minutes with a handsome, hardback folder with a slot ready for the 23rd James Bond film, “Skyfall.”
Summary: I was probably eight or nine years old when I first watched “The Spy Who Loved Me,” easily the best of the Roger Moore as James Bond era, and I was so absolutely smitten with bad girl femme fatale Caroline Munro, that I became despondent for several days when her helicopter was blown out of the sky by Bond’s submersible Lotus Esprit.
James Bond, for me, has always been about the bad girls and the gadgets and the ridiculously superior villains who somehow always manage to screw up their plot for world domination.
This incredible box set, “Bond 50,” compiles, for the first time, all 22 feature films from 1962 to 2008, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and it’s a doozy of a collection that should have any diehard Bond fanatic drooling.
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection
Specs: Eight discs, eight films, including “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Wolfman,” “The Mummy,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Invisible Man” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” 710 minutes, with collectible packaging of full-color vintage poster replicas and movie facts.
Summary: They are the iconic originals, the dark nightmare stuff, the classic monsters that defined our childhood and made us fear that which goes bump in the night.
They are the men of legend – Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Raines – and the woman, Elsa Lanchester, the Bride, the first Femme Fatale, the original bouffant with the silver streak, wrapped in bandages, all smokey eyes and plump lips curled in a scream.
I have a serious thing for The Bride, always have. My Eve. My first boyish crush. My first infatuation, undead and elegant and sexy as hell.
The classic Universal monsters have been reimagined countless times, repackaged, rebooted, but never realized in quite the same way.
They might not be scary any more, but that is a product of time and loss, the loss of the innocence that made them terrifying to begin with because they were the embodiment of the unknown. Once you know what’s behind the curtain, and you see reality as far more frightening, when going to work in a building that might be rubble hours later is actually a thing to fear, the monsters don’t seem to be as monstrous anymore.
If you love someone who loves horror, this is the gift to get that person this year. It is a locked treasure chest of childhood wonder waiting to be opened and exhumed and experienced once again. The movies might seem soft by today’s standards, but the memory of that first viewing, that sense of the creeping dark throughout the house, that moment of aural clarity when a well-timed floorboard creak seemed wholly unfamiliar, a portent of bad things lumbering slowly toward your room, that never goes away. It just gets buried in a shallow grave, waiting patiently for someone with a hand trowel and a curiosity streak to come along and dig.
Ancient Aliens: Collector’s Edition
Studio: A&E Entertainment
Specs: 12 discs, 720 minutes, all four seasons of the popular show.
Summary: Did people really build the Pyramids? Who were those strange beings crudely depicted in cave drawings? How did the Mayans know so much about astronomy?
“Ancient Aliens,” the fantastic What If? series on The History Channel has, for four seasons, pondered these and other big mysteries that human comprehension simply can’t explain.
Fascinating, heady, debate-worthy stuff for the favorite geek in your family.
Ancient Egypt Anthology
Studio: A&E Entertainment
Specs: Six discs, 540 minutes.
Summary: Go deep into the history of a population thousands of years old, from Egypt’s origins in 3100 B.C. to its twilight in 332 B.C. when the mighty empire fell to Alexander the Great.
Ancient Rome Anthology
Studio: A&E Entertainment
Specs: Six discs, 540 minutes
Summary: Ancient Rome comes alive in this expansive, exhaustive look at the people, the culture and the lasting influence of one of history’s most powerful civilizations.
Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved Collector’s Edition
Studio: A&E Entertainment
Specs: Three discs, 390 minutes.
Summary: The enduring appeal of the great ship and its fateful voyage commemorates the 100th anniversary of the tragedy that has captivated imaginations and provided endless fodder for nautical sleuths.
Studio: A&E Entertainment
Specs: Six discs, 540 minutes
Summary: I believe. If the sky cracked open and giant, futuristic ships suddenly appeared overhead, I wouldn’t be surprised. Unidentified Flying Objects have long been the stuff of science fiction fantasy and scientific debate. The History Channel delves into the real accounts, the conspiracies, the probabilities of whether life exists out in the vast void of space and the possibility that our planet has been visited before.
Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part One
Specs: 2 discs, 225 minutes
Summary: The seventh season of the revamped “Doctor Who” is essentially one long sendoff to the Doctor’s most popular companions to date, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, that is only mildly successful and not nearly as fulfilling and engrossing as longtime fans wanted or deserved.
Doctor Who: Tardis Lunchbox
Description: It may not be bigger on the inside, but for parents who remember the importance of having the coolest lunchbox in your class back in the day, this is the perfect gift to help your child show off his geek cred. Major finger wigging-wagging for not including a thermos, though.
Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary 2013 Diary
Description: Jot down tales of your time-traveling adventures in this hardback diary that is both a date keeper and a commemorative keepsake of the first 50 years of “Doctor Who,” filled with glossy photos of past doctors, companions and alien villians.
Doctor Who: Salt and Pepper Shakers
Description: What better compliment to a good meal than a sprinkle of salt and pepper from your own miniature Tardis and Dalek shakers.
Doctor Who: Golden Dalek Ornament
Description: With this Golden Dalek ornament guarding your Christmas Tree, Santa better leave all the gifts you want or else he may suddenly hear: “Exterminate!”
Doctor Who: Tardis Teapot
Description: Transform your afternoon spot of tea from a relaxing time to a relaxing time travel with this handsome Tardis Teapot.
Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition 2013 Wall Calendar
Description: A 13x15 wall calendar commemorating all 11 Time Lord, time-traveling Doctors.
Power Rangers: From Mighty Morphin to Lost Galaxy
Studio: Time Life/Shout! Factory
Specs: 40 discs, 338 episodes
Summary: When I was a kid, I had UltraMan, the costumed sci-fi hero who battled unbelievable (for that time) monsters and aliens, defending his friends and protecting the planet.
In 1993, Saban introduced a new generation to the same high-flying, high-kicking hero concept, only this time, instead of one good guy to root for, children were given five heroes, both male and female, each identified by a color – Red, Black, Blue, Yellow and Pink.
Later years, and further adventures, would introduce new fan-favorites, each with his or her own distinguishable color – green, gold, silver, orange and purple.
The Power Rangers were skilled at hand-to-hand combat, so they never killed their enemies, making the series an instant hit with kids both young and slightly older, and they arrived in different iterations from Mighty Morphin to Alien Rangers to Zeo, Turbo and even Power Rangers in Space.
This incredible collection compiles all 145 episodes from the show’s original run, plus the 183 episodes that followed once the franchise began to branch out and explore different themes and galaxies.
That’s not all – for diehard fans and Cosplay lovers, and you know who you are, the set includes a wealth of documentaries and featurettes from original cast members talking about the phenomenon to crew members discussing what it took to give these characters life. There are fan videos, footage from the Power Rangers world tour, and even a special presentation of the very last episode with video commentary.
You won’t find the this Power Rangers collection in stores this holiday season, however. It is only available online at http://www.powerrangersondvd.com/
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles: The Complete Classic Series Collection
Specs: 23 discs, 4,378 minutes
Summary: Of all the 1980s properties, whether Garbage Pail Kids or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the goofiest concept that overperformed had to be those heroes in a half-shell, the kung-fu fighting, pizza devouring, sewer dwelling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Turtles made their splash initially in comic book form, and soon launched a film-cartoon-toy empire that rivaled even the stalwart franchises. The four mutant amphibians, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo, their sensei-mentor Splinter and their arch-nemesis Shredder, delighted fans of all ages.
This awesome collectible boxed set, packaged in a replica of the Turtles’ iconic van, includes 23 discs worth of jokes, battles and life lessons, gathering all 10 seasons of the animated show in one geek-worthy gift that will make longtime fans shout, “Cowabunga!”
The Best Blu-Rays and DVDs of 2012: Ultimate Gift Edition
Best Superhero Movie – The Avengers: Buy the Blu-Ray, stay for the plethora of bonus features, including the Marvel One Shot short film, “Item 47”
Best High Definition Upgrade – Jaws, Universal 100th Anniversary Edition: I still to this day can’t watch the scene where they find Ben Gardner’s boat. All the sick perversion I watch, and that’s the one film scene that makes me uncomfortable.
Best Horror Movie – The Cabin in the Woods: One of the most inventive, genre-bending film experiences of all time, and a hell of a thrill ride to boot.
Best Time Travel Movie – Safety Not Guaranteed: Not only hysterical, but a genre film that tugs at your heart too and makes you believe in magic.
Best Action Movie – The Raid: Redemption: The best hand-to-hand combat ever put on film. Superior to American action films in every way.
Best TV, Sci-Fi Edition – Torchwood: Miracle Day: The more accessible Americanized “Torchwood” that still manages to come up with a terrifyingly original storyline and keeps all the BBC flavor intact.
Best TV, Crime Procedural Edition – The Killing, The Complete First Season: Once you watch the pilot, you’re hooked. This is to TV what the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was to movies, a dark, absorbing, very smart and adult thriller.
Best Cult Classic (Old) – They Live Collector’s Edition: No other filmmaker alive can make a B-grade genre film resonate with timely, topical issues like John Carpenter, and “They Live” speaks volumes about the world we live in today.
Best Cult Classic (New) – Iron Sky: Nazis. On the moon! No other release in 2012 perfectly captured the drive-in feel of a classic Roger Corman production like “Iron Sky.” From its impressive production values that make the Nazi invasion of Earth so way cooler than any other low-budget flick you likely saw this year, to the wonderful industrial/electronic score by Laibach, to the hysterical and spot-on political and social satire, this is a movie you will want to call friends over to watch.
Best Apocalyptic Thriller – Take Shelter: Two words, Michael Shannon. There wasn’t a better acting performance last year, but “Take Shelter” does more than showcase Shannon. It speaks to the dark fear of the end of the world that hides deep in our collective bellies.
Best Horror Anthology – V/H/S: When it thrills, which is often, there’s not a better series of short films around that pack as many scares and as much suspense in a tight, 90-minute package.
Best Foreign Horror – [Rec] 3: Genesis: The Spanish franchise hits a highwater mark with this beautiful tale of gore-soaked love in the midst of a zombie insurrection.